You don’t really need the entirety of Vinerva, 40% is enough to win.
40% of Rulers
Garden of Golden Roses can be consumed twice by rulers, each granting 20% Vinerva’s Gift. In the early game, it is vital that you quickly aim at national rulers (not random other rulers) with this before the Chosen One can make them aware. A few will be made aware anyway before you can get to them, but by choosing the largest and most important nations, you can get most of them to 40% gift.
Use black forest to bring them to 40% shadow – if they become aware after that, they will not join the alliance but their shadow isn’t high enough for the Chosen One to redeem them (needs 50%). Don’t try to push to high levels of shadow yet, rather try to cover as many important areas with a medium amount.
The One that Got Away
The Chosen One will alert a few national rulers before you can get to them anyway. At this point switch using your powers to spread shadow in other areas – try to spread it as far apart as possible and leave no significant chunk of settlements without a bit of shadow nearby. Witch covens can help here but don’t use dark worship yet.
Use agents to deal with those – I prefer to start with the trickster and courtier for infiltration, and then for lore the harvester, survivor, and heirophant (probably could replace this one with another). The infiltration agents crack open the door for shadow, and then the lore agents push the advantage. Malign catch, or simply fully infiltrating the city and then enshadowing it can be a decent way to capture the aware rulers who won’t fall for gifts otherwise.
Plague is an incredibly powerful tool to enshadow since it generates a lot of death modifiers that can be used to ignore wards and enshadow aware rulers. It isn’t necessary to bring them to 100% shadow, once they are high enough other things can finish them off later in the game (such as desecrated temples).
If you push a ruler past 50% shadow, the Chosen One will try to redeem him if he is important enough. Doing this deliberately on a city you have fully infiltrated or on a ruler where you have leftover gift modifiers to immediately enshadow him afterwards is a good idea since this power has a 150 turn cooldown.
Apathy, the Apocalypse, and You
So all rulers of any nation that isnt incredibly tiny are slightly enshadowed and there are low levels of shadow throughout the world. The shadow means the rulers won’t join the alliance, so if it forms it will be in some backwater nation with almost no land. Similarly, rulers are much less prone to responding to menace, and thus it is time to put those lore heroes to use at witch covens doing dark worship. Pick witch covens that are as far away from civilization, or at least a ruler that isn’t at a bit of shadow, then spam dark worship. Nations should be very slow to respond due to the corruption already inflicted upon them, so massive amounts of shadow can be generated this way.
Vinerva’s Manifestation power can be used by giving gifts to random unimportant enshadowed nobles to crank victory a bit faster. Ones at very high shadow are quite willing to accept them. I got a win at turn 280 on normal difficulty without using this.
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